Shaefer inspires students, salutes mentors, at inaugural Kohn lecture

November 6, 2021

Associate Dean for Research and Policy Engagement Luke Shaefer delivered the inaugural Hermann and Amalie Kohn Professorship in Social Policy and Social Justice Lecture. Shaefer, who also serves as faculty director of Poverty Solutions, is the first of five named Kohn professorships at he Ford School, all a part of the the Kohn Collaborative for Social Policy.

The lecture was based on Shaefer's philosophy, "Listen. Research. Act. Begin Again." 

"I begin with listening, and translate listening into action to have my research shaped by the experiences and values of those who often don't have a voice at the policy making table. Listen, research and act, trying to be a part of concrete actions that hold the possibility of empowering families to live healthy and productive lives. And then we evaluate to see if those changes did in fact make a difference. In trying to translate research into action, I situate myself in an understanding and much of what we seek to address in a confrontation with poverty is centuries old and change will not come easily, but change is possible, both in the day-to-day moment that is can help empower families and in the big moments when new systems overtake the old ones in surprising ways. In subscribing to this method, I have found the world to be a much more complicated, richer, infuriating, fascinating, inspiring and beautiful place. " 

The Collaborative is based on three pillars: in addition to the five named professorships at the Ford School, it will support two Kohn Scholars, and resources for turning research into real social impact. 

Thanking the Kohn Family, Ford School Dean Michael S. Barr said, "It's my hope that the Ford School is a fitting place for the Kohn family to be honored and remembered for their own contributions to social justice."

Introducing Shaefer, University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel said, "There are many people at this school who are great scholars, and many who are great at public engagement. I don't know of anyone who embodies both more than Luke Shaefer."   

Harold and Carol Kohn and members of their family were in attendance, as were Shaefer’s mother, wife and one of his children, along with many of his life-long collaborators and mentors.

You can see the event video here.